Training Camp

Training Camp Diary: Day Seventeen

Welcome to Day Seventeen. Tomorrow the last one. We’ll save the tears for then, ok?

Your daily report.

– Injury roundup. C.J. Goodwin (unknown), David Nelson (left shoulder), Josh Harris (foot), Vince Williams (hamstring), Lawrence Timmons (toe), Cortez Allen (unknown), and Cameron Clear (right knee) were all out with injuries. Matt Spaeth appeared to get the day off though no one saw him on the field, always a slightly worrying sign.

Williams ran and cut at full speed on the middle field early in practice. Great sign that he’ll be back soon, maybe tomorrow. Ross Ventrone ran/cut for two days before coming back. Goodwin jogged around the field for a brief time. I’m thinking there is some lower body injury with him.

Ventrone was dressed but didn’t partake in team drills. Will Johnson and Ryan Shazier were in the same boat with unknown ailments.

Heath Miller returned from yesterday’s day off and practiced in full.

Mike Adams also reappeared today, walking around, but doing no noticeable rehab. Sure a lot of that happens off the field, though.

– Newly signed linebacker L.J. Fort wore #54, Shawn Lemon’s original number.

– As you know, the team delayed practice until 3:55 today, an hour later than the normal start time. Heavy rains rolled through, forcing the grounds crew to keep the tarp on the main field. It was weird though. Last year when it rained, which was nearly every day, the team would just practice on the turf field and move over to the main field for team drills.

– Return line: Kenzel Doe, Brandon Boykin, Markus Wheaton, and Martavis Bryant.

– After a tense practice yesterday, the team was in good spirits, especially early on. Very high-energy, fun stretch line and. With the team catching returns out of the machine, Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Arthur Moats were paling around. I don’t know what the context was but Heyward grabbed Moats around the waist to restrain him while Tuitt did a mock chest bump with the linebacker.

Todd Haley hit the crossbar from 30 yards out. Nice arm, Todd.

Robert Golden has good hands. Was just some easy find and catch drill, but he leapt up and made a one-handed snag.

– Special teams drill focused on full unit kick returns. Sammie Coates the upback for Dri Archer. Cody Wallace, L.T. Walton, and Jesse James the next three in front. Robert Golden sitting in the middle between those three and the front five blocker. On that line included: Anthony Chickillo, Sean Spence, Arthur Moats, Terence Garvin, and Shamarko Thomas.

Mike Mitchell and Brad Wing ran together while Archer was in the return line. Someone check the Ashley Madison hack for an account in Wing’s name!

Danny Smith giving a quick pointer to Doe, the backup return man.

“Put that ball in the outside arm when you clear space!”

– I think the rain had to change the team’s schedule, since the near field was the only dry one, so they ran seven team drills and didn’t participate in any one-on-one drills. So nothing on that front.

Alden Darby broke down the DB huddle before the first practice. Lots of energy.

First 11 on 11

1. No seven shots series today. Ball was placed on the offense’s own five. Draw to Le’Veon Bell.

2. Sean Spence and Terence Garvin the starting inside linebackers. Ben Roethlisberger hits Heath Miller on a skinny pass in front of Antwon Blake.

3. Defense in nickel. Blake and Boykin on the outside with William Gay in the slot. Shamarko Thomas rolled to the line and blitzes with Gay bailing into the deep half, acting as the safety. Slay concept between Martavis Bryant and Miller, slant/flat, and Roethlisberger hits Miller in the flat. Shoved out by Boykin.

4. Gay and Spence blitz. Gay picked up but Spence is free. Ben finds Antonio Brown on a completion.

5. Now it’s Ian Wild and Terence Garvin at ILB. Will Allen and Robert Golden at safety. Doran Grant and Kevin Fogg at CB. Brown, lined up in the slot, catches a pass from Roethlisberger down the seam.

6. Now it’s Fogg at LCB and Webb at RCB. Roethlisberger wants to hit Miller on a curl but James Harrison dropped into coverage and took the route away. Big Ben goes to his second read and fires to Roosevelt Nix on a wheel route down the right sideline. Juggles, makes the catch, but can’t keep his feet inbounds.

7. Shayon Green beats Mitchell Van Dyk around the edge. Bruce Gradkowski climbs the pocket and looks for Sammie Coates downfield, who has a couple steps on Doran Grant. But Coates slows down tracking the ball and Gradkowski’s throw falls two yards ahead of the receiver. Something the rookie has to work on. Maintaining speed while finding the ball.

8. Draw to Dri Archer.

9. Alden Darby and Jordan Dangerfield at safety. Darby blitz while cornerback Kevin Fogg drops into the deep half. Gradkowski hits Tyler Murphy on an out route.

10. Landry Jones’ first rep. Forces a throw down the seam to Ray Hamilton. Picked off by Kevin Fogg. Fogg’s 4th interception, the team lead.

11. Howard Jones whips Kelvin Palmer around the edge. Bad to worse from Landry. Overthrows Murphy sitting down open in the middle of the field. Murphy probably could’ve given better effort to leap for the ball but the throw flat out missed. Right into Dangerfield’s hands, the safety making his first INT of camp. That’s nine picks for Landry Jones.

12. Jones complete to Shakim Phillips on a dig. Joe Kruger dipped under Cody Wallace to get pressure.

Second 11 on 11

1. Nix with a nice lead block to seal Green to the outside. Creates a lane for Le’Veon Bell off the outside hip of the left tackle.

2. Backup defense is in versus the starting offense. Hole for Bell who explodes through it off the right side. Joe Okafor doubled over and couldn’t keep his balance against Ramon Foster.

3. L.J. Fort sheds a block and makes his first tackle, filling his lane and wrapping up (wasn’t live tackling) DeAngelo Williams.

4. Williams rush off the right side. Doran Grant sets the edge and forces the back inside. Sound defense from the rookie corner.

5. Power O. David DeCastro and Heath Miller pulling right to left. Miller seals Fort inside, great block by the veteran tight end. Bell runs out of bounds with an extra nudge from Gerod Holliman.

6. Fort comes in on a blitz. Gets sealed inside. Williams on a draw.

7. Fort/Wild at ILB. Fort sheds Chris Hubbard but again, they can’t tackle. Nix with a strong block in the hole on Wild, who sheds the fullback late but the back is long gone. Get Nix downhill and he’ll clear a path. It was Jawon Chisholm’s first tote.

8. Howard Jones disengages from Jesse James off the snap but the run is inside and James seals the OLB to the outside. Braylon Heard with the carry off left tackle.

9. Split zone. Tough block for Jesse James on a blitzing Robert Golden and can’t make it. Archer runs to the zone side.

10. Archer carry off right guard. Alejandro Villanueva with a powerful drive block on Wild.

11. Collin Rahrig now in at left guard, his first team reps in awhile. No crease for Heard who gets swallowed up at the line.

12. Outside zone to the right. Villanueva sticks to L.T. Walton down the line. Chisholm on the carry.

Third 11 on 11

1. Now it’s the first team defense in against the backup offensive lineman. Palmer-Rahrig-Dismukes-Dieffenbach-Whimpey.

Offense was about as effective as you’d expect. First run sees Steve McLendon stuff the middle and eat up Heard at the LOS.

2. Dive to Heard. Shamarko Thomas fills the alley and makes the wrap up tackle. LOS blown up again, including Miles Dieffenbach, who was knocked back.

3. Chisholm off the right guard. Terence Garvin scrapes over the lineman and does a great job to fill his gap.

4. Bud Dupree whips Kevin Whimpey inside. Gradkowski hits Murphy on an out route.

5. Rahrig with a nice kickout block on Thomas. Heard pops Mitchell, the back probably frustrated by the beating he’s taken.

6. Gradkowski attempts to hook up with Murphy near the goal line. Miscommunication with the QB and WR, Gradkowski thought he’d settle down, but Murphy runs away. Pass falls incomplete.

7. Fade from Gradkowski to Sammie Coates in the right corner. Kevin Fogg gets his head around and bats the pass away.

8. Another apparent miscommunication. Looked like a bubble screen to Coates but the pass was way off the mark. Fogg nearly lucked his way into another INT and he knew it, jumping up and down in an “I had it” moment.

9. Outside zone to the left. James falls off his block. Heard has the carry.

10. New wrinkle! Alejandro Villanueva and Mitchell Van Dyk line up in the backfield with Heard the deep back. Full House formation. Heard gets the carry.

11. Gradkowski play action and boots to the right. Tries to hit Nix in the right flat but Sean Spence breaks on the ball well, getting to the ball first and picking it off on the goal line.

12. Chisholm cuts to his left on this inside zone…right into the waiting arms of Daniel McCullers, who swallows him up.

Fourth 11 on 11

1. Pistol between Roethlisberger and Bell. Boot from Ben who hits Wheaton in the right flat. Similar looking play to the Kansas City Chiefs one I referenced yesterday.

2. Jordan Dangerfield and Gerod Holliman the safety tandem. Holliman blitzes. Martavis Bryant gets behind the coverage and makes a leaping catch from #7.

3. Draw to DeAngelo Williams. Wheaton cracks Holliman trying to close, opening a lane.

4. Shayon Green at LOLB for the first time maybe all of camp. Ian Wild and Fort all stacked to that side. Roethlisberger hits Coates on a curl in front of Fogg.

5. Green and Chickillo at LOLB and ROLB, respectively. Maurkice Pouncey with a great second level block on Wild. Draw to D-Will.

6. Wild/Fort at ILB. Bryant complete from Ben over the middle. Luckily, for the first time ever, Dangerfield shows restraint, pulling up and not blasting the receiver over the middle. Both players knew it, too. Dangerfield looks at Bryant and places his hands to the side of his cocked helmet, implying to Bryant he could have put him to sleep.

I love Jordan Dangerfield.

7. Low snap from B.J. Finney to Jones. Jones complete to DHB on a bubble screen.

8. Jones fires a curl complete to Jesse James. B.W. Webb just a tick late or else he would have had the interception. Villanueva sealed Dupree far up the arc on the play.

9. Jones complete to Murphy. Fogg came on a blitz.

10. Matt Conrath/Ethan Hemer in the nickel. Archer on a draw. Webb with a nice play to fill the lane before Hubbard can cross his face.

11. Iffy snap from Hubbard to Jones. Pass complete to Coates on a curl.

12. Jones to Coates deep downfield along the left sideline. Fogg provided good coverage the pass went incomplete, potentially through the receiver’s arms. But it was a tough over-the-shoulder catch.

Fifth 11 on 11

1. Ball is on the offense’s own two. Outside zone to the left with Chisholm on the carry. Jarvis Jones sheds and Sean Spence scrapes over to take the back to the ground, the back falling kind of hard on his left shoulder.

2. Chisholm up the middle. Webb meets the runner in the hole with a loud pop.

3. Rahrig in at LG, Dismukes at center. Screen from Bruce to Heard. Dismukes offered a nice second level block in space. Mitchell knocks Heard out of bounds.

4. Arthur Moats sets the edge and turns Heard back inside, who gets stuffed at the line.

5. Poor stunt pickup between Dieffenbach and Whimpey. Gradkowski finds an open Chisholm underneath.

6. Jesse James lined up at FB. Playaction. Gradkowski’s screen to Chisholm is too high. Garvin nearly leapt and picked it off.

7. Tyler Murphy false start. Play goes on anyway. Heard receives the carry.

8. Fort at LOLB with James Harrison lined up over one of the A gaps. Gradkowski complete to Jarrod West, the receivers first grab of camp. Heard had nice blitz pickup against Dupree. Getting low and his arms fully extended from the rookie linebacker up the middle.

9. Harrison rips under Kelvin Palmer, sending Palmer sprawling to the ground. Would have been a sack. Gradkowski hits an open Chisholm, who sprints down the left sideline.

10. Just awful blocking all the way around. Wild and Hemer scot free. Chisholm carry but not much there.

11. Kenzel Doe lined up in the slot. Gradkowski finds him on a quick out to the right side versus Kevin Fogg.

12. Landry Jones comes in and tries to hit Sammie Coates. Doran Grant nearly had the interception. Dangerfield rushed free on a blitz.

Sixth 11 on 11

1. Bell with the tote. Back with the first team OL against third team defense. Bell carry into the second and third level. Alden Darby chases him downfield.

2. Looks like Fort screwed up his assignment, floating into the flat where Jordan Sullen already was at. Leaves Heath Miller wide open on a curl, who promptly receives the pass from Ben Roethlisberger.

3. Bell with a carry on the right side.

4. David DeCastro and Roosevelt Nix pull. Wild gets sealed inside. Williams easily turns the edge and gets upfield.

5. Scramble drill for Ben Roethlisberger. Nothing open for 5-6 seconds. Finally, just as I think the coaches are going to blow the whistle, Markus Wheaton comes across the middle and makes the grab from Ben. Always seems to get open on these scramble drills. Good chemistry with Ben.

6. Double-move from AB, who burns Sullen. But Roethlisberger overthrows the star receiver. Incomplete down the left side.

7. Big Ben floats a pass to Heyward-Bey on an out route along the left side. Recevier makes a sliding catch to the ground.

8. Outside zone to the right with Chisholm. McCullers blows through Hubbard and chases Chisholm down the line.

9. Double A gap blitz is picked up well. Ben throws to Coates near the left sideline, in front of Mike Tomlin, who yells out “Finish!” while the ball is in the air. Coates makes the grab and Dupree, dropping into coverage, wraps the rookie receiver up.

10. Dupree whips Villanueva off the edge. Jones complete to DHB over the middle.

11. Jones tries to hit Coates on a curl. Fogg played the pocket but couldn’t knock the ball out of Coates’ hands.

12. Pistol. Jones rolls to the right. Fogg undercuts the route and nearly picked the pass off, the ball going through his hands.

Seventh 11 on 11

1. Wild gets his hand in there to bat away this pass intended for James from Gradkowski.

2. Joe Kruger, a darkhorse for the practice squad, holds the POA on this Chisholm run. Carry off the right side.

3. Brucy complete to Phillips on a curl.

4. Screen to the right from Gradkowski to Heard. Heavy pressured. Pass complete but Doran Grant closes in a hurry to get to the back.

5. HoJo whips Van Dyk off the edge. Gradkowski complete to Chisholm, who makes a leaping catch.

6. #5 to West on a dig but the newly signed receiver squanders his chance, letting the ball slip through his hands. Watching Van Dyk again, who stopped his feet on his punch and doubled over on contact.

7. McCullers flows well on this outside zone run to the left side, nearly steamrolling poor Braylon Heard. Howard Jones needed to stay square, but he did hold the edge and turn the run inside.

8. Jones attempts to hit Phillips on a corner route. Webb is kind of grabby, and may have been called for pass interference in a real game, and the pass lands incomplete.

9. Webb and Boykin blitz. Jones launches a nine right down the right sideline to West. Overthrown and incomplete. Holliman on the coverage.

10. Coaches move the ball to the red zone, resting on the 20. Chisholm carry, Darby filling the lane.

11. Van Dyk seals his man to the inside, creating a lane for Heard. He lowers his shoulder into Alden Darby, again taking out some frustration.

12. Anthony Chickillo comes in scot free. Jones tries to find Coates on a slant near the goal line. Fogg ends his great practice on a high note, knocking the pass away. Ball ricochets into the air and falls behind them in the end zone, a couple steps away from Alden Darby.

Mitch Hedberg Joke Of The Day 

“I think Bigfoot is blurry. That’s the problem. Bigfoot is blurry. And that’s extra scary. There’s a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the country side.”

Let’s Talk About…

…the Schwan man. I saw one of their trucks on my drive into Saint Vincent last week. How is this still a company? Who is still buying their frozen food from a strange man in his truck? It seems like a terrible business model yet here we are. Show yourself. Who is keeping this company afloat?

Is this just a front for the Columbian drug cartel? That feels likely. I’m on to you, Schwan man.

Twitter Fan Question

@jccshakyb asks…

“hey Alex, enjoyed the training camp coverage, does chickillo make the 53, or PS?”

If he doesn’t make the 53, he’s definitely going to be kept on the practice squad. Unless he fails to clear waivers. I normally don’t discuss that as an option, Jesse James isn’t getting claimed, Ian Wild isn’t getting claimed, you get the idea, but Chickillo might. A lot of 3-4 teams that may have written him off in the draft are now brought into the mix and maybe someone is as impressed with his transformation as we all are. He’s almost an entirely different player, a whole new evaluation, and that could lea to him getting poached.

Dave has convincing evidence that the team is likely only to keep 10 OLBs, and it’s hard to argue with that kind of lengthy history. But man, if you’re talking about keeping the best 53 on the roster, Chickillo has to be on that list. Sure, he’ll likely wind up inactive and who knows, may get bumped down to the practice squad when there are in-season injuries. But you’ll say that about any of the last three of four players you keep on your 53. So it isn’t really a unique or compelling argument. Still think he makes it. He’s earned it.

SVC Snapshot 

My view looking out away from the campus over Latrobe following today’s practice.


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